Some good things come out of Tuscany
We love Umbria, that is why we chose to live here, we love the food, the people, the countryside and just about everything else. Umbria is refereed to as Tuscany’s lesser known neighbour, and I am pleased about that.
I would hate it to be overrun by hoards of tourist buses, Tuscany can keep those. The tourists that come to Umbria are far nicer, more intelligent and an all-round better class of soul. OK, I better stop.
Notwithstanding these facts, Tuscany is of course also breathtakingly gorgeous and has some fantastic food and wines to boot. One of these is the humble Pici Pasta, just a few ingredients and a little work and you have a brilliant rustic pasta that pairs very well with the rich Tuscan rago or as we love the extremely garlicky ‘Pici all’aglione’, that recipe to follow.
I have no doubt that if a Nonna or Mamma from Tuscany reads this they would probably want to string me up, I have probably not rolled it correctly or something else. I have never been taught how to make pici, I just enjoyed eating it in Tuscany and thought I would give it a bash, as with all my recipes this is My version, it may not be strictly original but it is not far off.
Pasta of southern Umbria
In Umbria, as I think in most regions, we have similar pasta types made from a simple flour and water recipe without eggs. In fact, you can even narrow the different types down to towns or comunes within regions, this is the case in Umbria at least.
In and around Acquasparta we have Picchiarelli pasta, think of a long really thick spaghetti, but because it is not dried when it’s cooked it is wonderfully chewy. Then 20km away in Terni they have Ciriole, Spoleto has Srangozzi, Orvieto has Umbriachelli and Narni you will find Manfricoli, all of these areas are within a 50km radius. You could say that all of these are basically the same, they may differ in shape or thickness slightly that is about it.
In most towns in Italy you will find at least 1 fresh pasta shop and there you will find the special pasta of the area and probably the more better know versions as well as various filled pasta. We often wonder how these shops make any profit because any that we have ever been in are always very reasonably priced, for fresh pasta it is extremely good value. If you like to visit and holiday in Italy and are in a situation to cook for yourself seek out the local pasta shop, you wont be disappointed.
“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”Federico Fellini
- Rolling Pin
- 400 g Type 00 flour or all purpose flour
- 210 ml Water
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 tsp Salt
- On a clean work surface place the flour and sprinkle the salt over it and mix a little
- Make a well in the middle of the flour and gradually add in the water while mixing in the flour, after adding half the water add the olive oil and then continue to add the water and mix with the flour to create a dough
- The dough will be quite dry and stiff, you need to knead the dough for 5-10 mins until it becomes smooth and silky to the touch
- If you have a mixer with a dough hook you can also do the steps above in the mixer
- Once you have finished kneading the dough you need to let it rest for at least 2 hours or even overnight, covered with a damp clean cloth or in a bowl covered with cling film
Rolling out the pasta
- Once it has rested place the dough onto a clean surface and with a rolling pin roll the pasta into a large sheet approx 5mm (3/16 of an inch if you are barbaric)
- When you have the dough rolled out then you need to cut it into 5mm strips, you can use a knife or I use a pizza cutter and if you are lucky enough to own a special "Mattarello per tagliatelle" which is a Pici rolling pin you can use it. I find the pizza cutter does a good job, these strips don't need to be exact
- Next, break the strips into about 10-15cm lengths and either roll them on the work surface or like I do rub them between your palms to make them into rough round strips, think like a thick, rough spaghetti
- Carry on this until you have all the little strips turned into Pici, dust the pici with semolina flour or just ordinary flour to stop them sticking together
- Once you have your pici all rolled out you can cook them in abundant, well seasoned boiling water, they will only take a minute or two, when they rise to the top of the water they are ready, take them out of the water and place directly into your chosen sauce, toss in sauce and serve. We like them with a rich Tuscan rago or a special treat for garlic lovers and our firm favourite Pici all'aglione, a tomato sauce laced with garlic, recipe to follow.